Nine months after the first round of arrests, we’re finally getting an in-depth look into the FIFA corruption scandal.
Earlier today, ESPN published a massive piece telling the inside story on the US Department of Justice’s investigation of soccer’s global governing body. The lengthy and meticulously detailed piece doesn’t share much that wasn’t already known, yet it manages to pull many tangled strands together into a fairly exhaustive account of the DOJ’s probe and some of the fallout.
Some highlights of the piece include:
- A comprehensive look at Chuck Blazer’s life and career, from suburban soccer dad to high-powered executive. Some notable points are his ousting from US Soccer in the 1980s, his subsequent involvement in the third iteration of the American Soccer League and member team Miami Sharks, how his shady dealings there forced him to flee to Guatemala, and his role as mastermind behind Jack Warner’s rise to power.
- A convincing account of how and why CONCACAF was susceptible to corruption from the likes of Blazer and Warner.
- The story of Blazer’s rise to FIFA. Once Blazer made CONCACAF his personal power base, he was able to leverage that into a seat on FIFA’s Executive Committee. One of his early accomplishments there was convincing FIFA to manage and sell its broadcast and marketing rights itself, a move which set the stage for the decades of impropriety to come.
- The beginnings of the DOJ probe. While FIFA and CONCACAF had been on the FBI’s radar for a while, it was the shenanigans and suspicions surrounding hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups (awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively) that really got the ball rolling on the investigation that rocked FIFA. John Buretta, head of the FBI’s organized crime wing, was quoted as saying, “It felt like an organized crime case. It fit with what we did.”
- A thorough tick-tock of the investigation’s gathering momentum, starting with Mohamed bin Hammam’s failed bid for FIFA presidency in 2011 and the entanglements with Blazer.
Obviously, Chuck Blazer is the central figure of the ESPN piece. Commentary on his weight notwithstanding, the story told there is one of a powerful figure from relatively humble beginnings whose greed and hubris brought him to extravagant highs followed by embarrassing lows.
If you’re interested in starting a deep dive into the FIFA corruption scandal, make some time this week and check the ESPN piece out. (And of course, check back with us for updates as major developments emerge.)